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Halloween II: 2-Disc Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch: Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!

Halloween II: 2-Disc Collector's Edition
1981 (2012) - Scream Factory

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch: Collector's Edition
1982 (2012) - Scream Factory

Earlier this year, when Shout! Factory announced the launch of a new line of horror Blu-rays and DVDs called (what else?) Scream Factory, that loud thud you heard was horror fans everywhere collectively dropping to their knees to give thanks. Shout! Factory has deservedly earned a reputation for high quality catalog titles with their impressive Roger Corman's Cult Classics line, music releases, and television series. So even though this year's Hell Plaza Oktoberfest is still a few weeks away, I thought we should get a jump on the season by taking a look at Scream Factory's highly anticipated inaugural releases.

I discussed Universal's Halloween II Blu-ray last year, so check out that review for my thoughts on the movie itself. The Scream Factory release corrects the mistakes of Universal's disc, including the altered "Moustapha Akkad Presents" credit. The movie's been given a new transfer that's slightly more pleasing than Universal's effort. I didn't detect a world of difference but Scream Factory's version is a bit cleaner and has a more natural, film-like quality than the previous release. On the audio front, you have your choice between a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix or the original 2.0, also in DTS-HD. The 5.1 mix is an improvement over Universal's job, sounding better balanced and more fully fleshed out. If you want to stick with the 2.0, it sounds pretty much the same as it did before.

Of course, it's the extras on the disc that are going to be the real attraction for fans. DVD producer Cliff MacMillan and director Michael Felsher hit the ball way out of the park, starting with the 45-minute documentary The Nightmare Isn't Over: The Making of Halloween II. This is a fast-paced, comprehensive look at the film with a wide array of interviewees, including director Rick Rosenthal, executive producer Irwin Yablans, director of photography Dean Cundey, actors Lance Guest, Dick Warlock, Leo Rossi, co-composer Alan Howarth, and many, many more. There are a lot of great stories here, making this a must-watch even if you don't think you're all that interested in the behind-the-scenes of a 30-year-old horror sequel. While it's certainly regrettable that neither Jamie Lee Curtis nor John Carpenter agreed to participate, it's a testament to the strength of the documentary that their absence is hardly noticeable.

The fun continues with another episode of Sean Clark's Horror's Hallowed Grounds, the series that tracks down and revisits shooting locations of beloved horror favorites. The series has occasionally popped up as a bonus feature on other discs and it's surprisingly addictive. Sean Clark is a knowledgeable and charismatic host. I hope Scream Factory continues to utilize his services on future releases.

The Blu-ray also includes an extensive still gallery, three TV spots (including one touting the network television premiere), radio spots, the theatrical trailer and the alternate ending and deleted scenes with optional commentary by Rick Rosenthal. Rosenthal also contributes a feature commentary, joined by actor Leo Rossi, which is amiable enough but also a little low-key. Better is the second commentary by stunt coordinator and Shape-portrayer Dick Warlock, moderated by FEARNet's Rob G. Warlock has a lot to say and keeps things fresh and interesting throughout. The set also includes a DVD featuring the complete TV version of Halloween II with additional footage and the original screenplay in PDF format.

You'll still want to hang on to Universal's Blu-ray for the 1984 documentary Terror In The Aisles, which seems unlikely to get another release any time soon. I'd suggest designing custom Terror artwork for the case, if for no other reason than to remind you why you've got it in the first place. Scream Factory's version is the definitive Halloween II disc and the one you'll be reaching for from now on. Accept no substitutes.

The long, uphill climb of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch from outright failure to something approaching respectability is well-known to fans. John Carpenter and Debra Hill sought to relaunch the franchise as a Michael Myers-free series of individual Halloween-themed horror movies. It was a gutsy move and one that clearly did not pay off. Fans balked at the new direction and Halloween III died an inglorious death at the box office.

Taken on its own terms, Halloween III actually isn't a bad movie that's slowly but steadily gained a loyal cult following over the years. Horror movie stalwart Tom Atkins stars as the hard-drinking, womanizing Dr. Challis. He's on call when a man clutching a jack-o-lantern mask is brought in, suffering from shock and gibbering that "they're going to kill us!" After his patient is killed by a mysterious Man in Black who then douses himself in gasoline and lights a match, Challis teams up with the man's daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin). They retrace his final days, tracking him back to the Silver Shamrock Novelties company in northern California. Run by the sinisterly jovial Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy), the company's maddening jingle and triumvirate of witch, skeleton and jack-o-lantern masks hide a secret plot to, as the man said, kill us all.

For approximately its first two-thirds, Halloween III is a pretty good little movie. It has some interesting ideas, excellent visuals, and unforgettable moments. Things fall apart once Cochran reveals his master plan, which is…um, convoluted to say the least. Even so, the movie retains a kind of lunatic charm throughout. It wraps up with a go-for-broke energy that suggests the filmmakers themselves knew things had stopped making a whole hell of a lot of sense but were determined to go out swinging in any case.

Scream Factory's winning streak continues with this disc, starting with a stunning high-def transfer and a solid DTS-HD 2.0 audio track. It's fair to say that nobody has ever seen Halloween III looking quite this good. Dean Cundey's images and Don Post's masks have never looked better.

Extras start off with the documentary Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch. It's a bit shorter than the Halloween II doc but no less fascinating. Writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace, actors Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin, and returning participants like Yablans, Cundey, Warlock and Howarth, among others, speak freely and candidly about the intent, style, successes and failures of the picture. It's another great documentary directed by Michael Felsher. Sean Clark also returns for another top-notch installment of Horror's Hallowed Grounds, accompanied for much of the trip by Tommy Lee Wallace himself. Wallace, Clark and Rob G also provide the first audio commentary, with Tom Atkins and Felsher taking the mic for the second track. Wallace's commentary is fine, although he inevitably ends up covering much of the same ground he discussed elsewhere on the disc. Atkins' track is a lot of fun and more wide-ranging, with anecdotes from the entire history of the actor's career. The disc is completed by another high-def still gallery, some TV spots, and the theatrical trailer. Both Halloween II and Halloween III boast newly designed artwork by Nathan Thomas Milliner with the original promotional art on the reverse, should you opt to flip it around for the more "classic" look.

Scream Factory is officially open for business and these first two releases demonstrate that horror fans were fully justified in their excitement. If you love the genre, don't hesitate in adding these discs to your collection.

Film Rating (Halloween II): B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/A

Film Rating (Halloween III: Season Of The Witch): B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/A-

Dr. Adam Jahnke

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